I’m A Female Classicist, Get Me Out Of Here!: In Vino Veritas

Illustration by Ipsita Sarkar.

Way back when, as a fresher, I was warned, ‘Classicists drink almost as much as Medics’. Whilst this very much depends on the Classicists and Medics in question, one thing seems clear; the bigger the workload, the more drinking opportunities (whether you choose to take them, though, is entirely up to you). 

You’d think that Medicine students would know better than to drink to excess, but so really should Classicists. An ever useful degree, Classics provides sage advice on best drinking practices that seem to be studiously ignored, certainly by all the Classicists I know. For starters, the Romans are on to something with the whole mixing wine with water thing. Okay so maybe they shouldn’t literally be mixed together if you have tastebuds, but pacing yourself with the odd drink of water is a good way to reduce the chances of an evil hangover. Of course, actually remembering to do that throughout the course of a night out is a separate issue… Actually, research suggests that the only way to truly stave off a hangover is to drink less, but water does at least help with thirst and a dry mouth. 

In fact, if the Romans saw us drinking our undiluted wine, they’d consider us barbarians, which now I think about it is a fair description of students at times. 

Perhaps, then, it’s better to turn to the Greeks for drinking advice. You may have heard of a symposion, a drinking party on couches, usually with 7 people where literature, philosophy and politics are discussed. In other words, not unlike essay/problem sheet procrastination in someone’s room, but instead of wine drawn from an elaborately decorated krater in the centre of the room, we have boxed wine, and instead of couches, we have the floor. 

At symposia the wine, and the intellectual ideas, were free flowing. A study by the University of Illinois suggests that slight to moderate alcohol intoxication can actually increase problem solving abilities. This study was admittedly small and examined only men, so take it with a large pinch of salt and, in my personal experience, alcohol doesn’t make latin grammar work any easier. 

What I did learn recently is that mixing wine and gin is a very VERY bad idea. A wise person (my mother) recently said to me “grape and grain never mix”. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I’d already worked that out whilst curled up in a chair at our kitchen table on the morning after my 19th birthday. Thanks to the encouragement of a Medic friend of mine, I’d accepted a gin and tonic before bed, having consumed a fair bit of wine already, and, unsurprisingly, felt like death warmed up the next morning. He, of course, felt fine. Now, I’m yet to figure out if Classicists really do drink almost as much as Medics, but this particular Medic could certainly handle his gin better than I could (much to my misery and his amusement). 

Alannah Burdess

Alannah Burdess is going in to her second year, studying Classics at Trinity College. She writes a weekly column inspired by the anecdotes she tells in tutorials to procrastinate actual academic work.

About the Author

Alannah Burdess
Alannah Burdess
Alannah Burdess is going in to her second year, studying Classics at Trinity College. She writes a weekly column inspired by the anecdotes she tells in tutorials to procrastinate actual academic work.